From Jim’s E-Mail of 122107. If you knew how well he interacts with kids (of all ages) you would doubly appreciate some of these pictures.
Family and Friends,
Here are some more pictures from Iraq. I took these pictures on one of the presence patrols that we conducted in a southern Baghdad neighborhood. Sniper, ambush, and IED/EFP threats have been relatively low in this area but we are constantly on the look out for suspicious activity. I observe the roadways with a watchful eye wondering when the next IED/EFP will explode and take its toll on U.S. soldiers. We look for any sign or indicator that would lead us to believe that an IED would be in the area. We have sophisticated jamming equipment and electronic countermeasures to counter the IED threat. Sometimes it is effective and other times it does not help. It depends on the emplacement and type of trigger method the bomb maker has used.
I have found the Iraqi people to be quite interesting. Their culture is unlike any that I have encountered before. They are people who just want to live in peace and enjoy a productive life. It is a very small percentage of the population that are actually involved in terrorist activities. They enjoy the same things that we do…family, friends, going to school, playing soccer, and earning a living. The town we patrolled was very active with men, women, and children running around all over. The main street is the heart of the neighborhood. It is also were the market is located. The markets offer good targets for suicide bombers because they are usually heavily populated. They sell everything from fresh produce to clothing and various other items. You will see a variety of different vehicles from all over the world. They will drive anything that runs. 80% of the vehicles are old and beat up. There are no traffic signals or speed limit signs and I’ve seen what appeared to be 13 and 14 year olds driving.
We have an interpreter that goes out with us to help us communicate with the locals. Some of the locals speak a little bit of English too. We contact the local Sheikh (Governor/Spiritual Leader) and talk to him about any of the concerns that he might have about his neighborhood. We also inquire about any militia or terrorist activities in the area. We set up events where we bring back packs, pencils, books, toys, and candy and various other items for the community. We contact the Army Engineers to build various small projects around the town to help improve their living conditions.
Almost all of the locals are very happy that we are here. Most of them hated Saddam Hussein and the awful things that he did to them and their loved ones. The children run along side our Hummers and ask for candy or chocolate. They say, “Chocolate mister.” One of them asked what my name was and if I was married. He told me his name was Ali. He spoke amazing English for only being 8 years old. One local Iraqi man was walking down the street with a freshly severed goat head and a couple of hooves. I stopped him and he let me take a picture. He was so excited that I took a picture of it. I’m assuming that he sold it at the market. It’s amazing how people can live in such a desert wasteland environment. The weather was chilly by Iraqi standards. It was probably about 60 degrees. The kids favorite sport is soccer. They are crazy about soccer. One of the photos shows several containers in the street. This was their gas station…literally. They use old plastic motor oil jugs for gas cans. There were also two mosques located within the neighborhood. They are very sacred to the local people because their entire lives revolve around their spiritual beliefs. I hope these pictures give you an idea of what life is like over here in this particular area of Iraq.