Saturday, February 21, 2004


How the new guys in-country are going to school.
The new arrivals sat mostly in silence, watching the dangers flash by on the laptop: a Humvee destroyed by a roadside bomb, a mound of shrapnel-laced plastic explosives, a booby-trapped poster of Saddam Hussein.

The slide show was being given by a soldier heading home after a one-year tour in the Tikrit region, where mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and bombings are a constant threat.

Those huddled around the computer in a quiet corner of their sleeping quarters in this sprawling U.S. military base were only five days in Iraq, and on their first deployment to a combat zone.

"It goes to show that this is a deadly place," said one soldier, unwilling to give his name. "This is not just another Bosnia rotation." ...

In long chats over chow and in more formal familiarization sessions, the threat posed by roadside bombs comes up again and again. More than half the 39 U.S. soldiers killed last month fell victim to what the military calls IEDs -- improvised explosive devices.

The computer presentation showed different types of explosives and timers; IEDs hidden in soft-drink cans and inside animal carcasses; decoy bombs, left to cause a convoy to stop and investigate only to be hit by other devices hidden nearby.

One photo showed a placard of Saddam Hussein attached to a fence. It was rigged to blow up if a soldier ripped it down.

Advice ranges from the technical -- add armor to your Humvee if possible, drive fast and in the middle of the road -- to the more philosophical.

"People should make peace with their family members because they might not get to see them again," said Sgt. Andrew Antolik, from Dyersville, Iowa. "Stuff happens out here. People get killed."

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