Monday, August 04, 2003

Alicia Flores' relatives call her GI Jane. The Army calls her one of the first servicewomen to enter Iraq during the war.

On March 19, Flores, a Proviso East High School graduate and an Army chemical operations specialist based at Fort Stewart, Ga., volunteered to accompany a smoke platoon--including three other women--with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

On the fourth morning, an ambush of mortar rounds marked their first encounter with Iraqi troops--and Flores' 20th birthday.

"After the firefight, the guys stopped the tanks and got out and sang happy birthday to me," said Flores. "That was about it."

Her four months in Iraq, though, weren't all gunfire. First, she had to learn to live with an armory of men who'd never served alongside women before...

By the third week, the convoy reached Baghdad, where they helped guard the airport, which was under attack daily. Eventually she pulled guard duty at Saddam Hussein's presidential palace, where she and other soldiers amused themselves by playing dress-up with Saddam's extensive wardrobe and performing skits for each other.

They broke up the monotony of guard duty by taking pictures of themselves pointing weapons at Saddam's many portraits or posing as a dictator in one of his oversize throne chairs or pretending to dip their toes in his empty swimming pool.

When soldiers discovered a stash of more than $600 million, Flores was assigned to guard it, too.

"All we could do was sit there and watch it," she said. Less fun was "baby-sitting" the enemy prisoners of war, including five from the military's deck of cards and several others she called "High-Dollar Value Guys." Part of her responsibility was to make sure the prisoners received one MRE (meal ready to eat) and one bottle of water a day. Prisoners were kept 25 to a cell. Several offered her marriage proposals.

"They would tell the other male soldiers that they had a camel and a sheep and wanted to trade them for me. A lot of them wanted me to marry them and take them back to America."

Hmmm...CPT Patti is responsible for the overnight detention cell in Central Baghdad...wonder how many camels and sheep she has been offered???

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